National Consumers League


NCL Food Issues

Leaders looking to curb soda consumption in anti-obesity efforts

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Clear cup filled to brim with sugar cubes and white drinking strawLocalities across the country are starting to take action to make consuming large quantities of sugar-laden sodas a little more difficult for consumers. What do you think? Read on.


According to a recently released poll, half of Americans drink soda every day. All told, the average American consumes almost 40 gallons of soda every year. That is a staggering number, especially when you consider that sodas, laced with either sugars or artificial sweeteners, have no nutritional value. This is especially of concern since more than two-thirds of American adults and one-third of American children are either overweight or obese. We are consuming more calories than we need, and soda is not only directly linked to obesity, it is the single largest source of calories in the American diet.

Given the alarming rise of obesity in our country, it is about time that leaders started taking action. New York City’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently proposed a limit on the size of sugary drinks that could be sold at establishments like restaurants and movie theaters. The restrictions would limit sodas to a still generous 16 ounce size, once advertised by Coca-Cola as enough to serve three. While the proposal has been met with stiff opposition from various industries, it is likely to help decrease consumption by re-teaching New Yorkers what healthy portions look like.

Other cities are taking different steps to try to curtail the consumption of sugary drinks in their localities. Residents of Richmond, CA, will vote in November on a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages. The tax would take the form of a license fee on institutions that sell these beverages, a fee that would likely be passed on directly to consumers as a tax on their favorite sugary drinks. El Monte, another California city, has also recently announced that it will vote on a soda tax.

Whether these interventions take the form of restrictions or taxes, the goal is the same: get people to drink less soda. These leaders recognize that it is not just personal choice that leads to obesity, but also the food environment and norms a person is exposed to. While these measures may not be the silver bullet that will end obesity, they are strong moves to start tackling a complex and multifaceted problem.